Panzers halted at Battle of Alam el Halfa
31st August 1942: A dramatic account from a gunner on the Alam el Halfa ridge as British artillery clashes with Rommel's panzers below
Rommel's attempt to break through the British defensive line at El Alamein was making slow progress.
Montgomery’s Chief of Staff, Freddie de Guingand, learnt of the attack in the early hours of the 31st1:
it was the first big battle that Eighth Army had fought since I had become its Chief of Staff. I felt I had better go and wake up the Army Commander and tell him the news, and so walked over to his caravan. I told him what was happening, and all he said was "Excellent, excellent," and then turned over and went to sleep, breakfasting at his usual hour in the morning.
On Montgomery’s orders British tactics had changed - no longer could their tanks be lured out into an unequal battle with the German guns. Instead the German Panzers had to attempt to force their way past high ground - the Alam Halfa Ridge - that was dominated by the British artillery.
Henry Ritchie2 was one of the gunners on the ridge:
It seemed as if every gun on the plain below had opened up on our sector on the summit of the Alam Halfa Ridge. Bright, stabbing flashes from the enemy guns could be clearly seen as they laid fire down on the ridge and lambasted the sector from end to end with raining steel. Our jackets were being dusted and no mistake.
But great as was the firepower of the determined enemy, our own thundering, frightful gunfire at its zenith seemed to know no bounds and we and other gunners, declaring our faith, pumped thousands of rounds of deadly high explosive shells into the engines of the advancing enemy.
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